Does the term “emotional eating” resonate with you? Are you struggling to alleviate stress and reduce portion sizes? A body of research shows that mindfulness-based techniques can help to reduce the stress that leads to the emotional eating we engage in when we’re feeling overwhelmed, but not necessarily hungry.
Mindfulness practices originate in Buddhism, but have been embraced by Western doctors and psychologists. They focus on helping us to be fully aware of what is happening in the present. Mindfulness can help with depression and anxiety and improve overall feelings of optimism and well-being. These techniques are great for helping us tune in to our feelings, which can enable us to address emotions in constructive ways that do not involve food.
Looking for mindfulness techniques that work?
Slow Down. At one meal each day, set a timer for 20 minutes and try to eat slowly enough to make your food last. Savor the tastes and consider everything that went into making the meal possible, from sun, rain, and soil to the grocery store worker who stocked the shelves. You might also try eating with your non-dominant hand or using chopsticks. Take small bites and chew your food well. This will help you to enjoy your food. Because it takes about 20 minutes for the belly to signal the brain when it’s full, it’s easier to overeat if you rush through a meal. Taking your meal slowly also increases senses of satisfaction, which can deter snacking later.
Take a Breath. For a few minutes, sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Feel your breath coming in and going out. Thoughts will pop into your head, but instead of focusing on them, just let them pass by and return your attention to your breath. Research has shown that doing this once or twice per day on a regular basis heightens our awareness and helps us to better tune in to sensations of hunger, thirst, fatigue, frustrations, and loneliness. When we are more in touch with our feelings, we are less likely to solve non-hunger problems by eating.
Count Your Blessings. Start a journal in which you jot down a few things that you are grateful for each day. These can be small (you didn’t miss your bus!) to big (having a spouse who loves you unconditionally). Even on the toughest of days, it’s possible to find something good to reflect upon, such as a glimpse of a sunny sky or a hug from a friend. This exercise enables us to feel gratitude and positive feelings. Many people like to write in their journal at bedtime, but any time of day can work. And as a bonus, when you are having a hard day, you can look back through your journal and smile all over again.
Being mindful while you eat, and feeling aware and grateful throughout each day, can truly help you to develop more constructive ways of coping with your emotions, and will allow you to have a better understanding of how much you’re eating and why you’re eating, which can lead to better control over meal times and portion sizes.
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